Pregnancy is an exciting time for any mother, but it often comes with questions about what is safe and important for oral health and dental care.
During pregnancy, as hormone levels change, there can be an effect on the oral cavity. One of the more common occurrences is “pregnancy gingivitis” where the gums can become inflamed and bleed. This is related to a changing of the bacteria makeup of the oral cavity leading to a rise in inflammation. This can also lead to gum infection, so extra care must be taken on brushing and flossing. There has also been some evidence that gum disease may possibly be related to birth issues such as premature birth or low birth weight1 so it is vital that good oral care be maintained throughout the pregnancy. Because of this, it is still a good idea to have regularly scheduled exams and dental cleanings during pregnancy. Both of these are completely safe and provide a benefit.
If elective or non-emergency dental work is being considered, it is best to wait until after the pregnancy, if possible. This would include cosmetic treatment such as teeth whitening. Routine dental x-rays may be delayed until after the pregnancy as well, if there is no evidence of any dental problems. In the case of urgent treatment like a cavity, infection, or another condition that cannot wait, it is safe to treat and take minimal x-rays, as needed. In this case, it is better to treat the problem immediately than to wait, as any oral infection can have an effect on the fetus. If necessary, the second trimester is considered the best time for dental treatment. It is the safest time for the baby and generally the most comfortable for the mother. Any medication, including numbing agents, should be limited to as little as possible.
At home, pregnancy may lead to diet changes due to snacking or cravings. It is important to be careful with the amount of sweets that are eaten as an increase can lead to a rise in cavities. Some expectant mothers may also experience sickness and vomiting. The acid from the stomach can cause erosion to teeth if it is continual. If vomiting occurs, it is best to not brush the teeth immediately after as this can create more erosion. It is better to first use a light rinse of water and baking soda to neutralize the acid before brushing.
In the end, having good oral health is very important, and extra care must be taken during pregnancy. If needed, dental care provided during pregnancy is safe, but most treatment is better left until after the baby is born, if possible. If an expectant mother has questions regarding oral care, she should ask her doctor or dentist to determine the best care for her during her pregnancy.
Dr. Nick is with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602.
1) Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy Outcomes: Overview of Systematic Reviews JDR Clin Trans Res. 2018 Jan;3(1):10-27. doi: 10.1177/2380084417731097. Epub 2017 Sep 25.